Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 15th October, 2013
Robin Meltzer’s campaign to win the Richmond Park constituency in south-west London back from the Conservatives in May 2015 recevied a boost last night when Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg spoke at a fundraising dinner at the Russell family’s old home of Pembroke Lodge. Apart from singing the prospective parliamentary candidate’s praises, Nick particularly emphasized the pro-European message of the Liberal Democrats. Though the Party believes the EU would benefit from reform, it would, in Nick’s words, be a disaster for the UK to leave. This means that the Liberal Democrats really will pin their European colours to the mast in next May’s European elections — for the first time ever, if truth be told, despite the fact that the electorate knows where the Party stands on the issue. Because of the nature of Richmond Park constiuency and, let’s be frank, the affluence of most of the people attending last night’s dinner, there were some sharp questions about the proposed “mansion tax” on properties worth over £2 million pounds. But Nick held his ground on this and insisted that it was only right that the most wealthy help pay for the government policies that have been lifting millions of the poorest people out of tax all together. The junior Education Minister, David Laws, was the back-up speaker, not surprisingly highlighting the pupil premium and other Coalition government policies aimed at th less wll-off — and all Liberal Democrat initiatives. Robin Meltzer should get a pointer as to how the mood amongst voters in the constiuency is developing next May, when the borough elections take place alongside the Euro-poll. But the many thousands of pounds raised at the dinner will give him and the local party a shot in the arm and will lead to a campaign office being set up in Richmond once again.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: David Laws, Liberal Democrats, mansion tax, Nick Clegg, Pembroke Lodge, Pupil Premium, Richmond, Richmond Park, Robin Meltzer | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 2nd January, 2013
The fireworks over the Thames that signalled the New Year in London symbolically coincided with a handover of the chairmanship of London Liberal Democrats, as I ended my three years at the helm and Mike Tuffrey – until last May a leading Member of the London Assembly – took over. My time in office was quite a roller-coaster, from the inflated national euphoria of Cleggmania just before the 2010 general election – when in the event we managed to hold on to seven parliamentary seats, but alas lost Richmond Park – to the frankly dire city-wide vote we received in the London Mayoral and GLA elections last May. At least we managed to return Caroline Pidgeon (rightly recognised in the New Year honours) and Stephen Knight to the Assembly. Of course, the kicking we received from the electorate then – at least some of it a protest at George Osborne’s Budget, as well as unhappiness over Coalition cuts – was not unique to London. Moreover, we have had some excellent local by-election results, which showed that the old mantra “where we work, we win” can still hold true.
Less visible, but significant, has been the way the regional party has become more professional over the past three years, including a move into larger and more flexible office space in Brixton and the appointment of a full-time Campaigns Manager, Chris Butler (backed up by the indefatigable Campaigns Chair Pete Dollimore and his team). Even if the results last May were disappointing, the campaign itself was much slicker than anything we’ve done before and indeed the candidates themselves were impressive and for the first time truly reflected the diverse nature of our capital city.
So what can Mike Tuffrey look forward to? Undoubtedly more needs to be done not just to recruit new members but particularly to retain the ones we have. And given Mike’s particular expertise in London-wide policy-making, honing a credible, attractive and specific London Liberal Democrat narrative is going to be crucial to future success. 2013 is a year with no major scheduled elections in London, though local council by-elections continue to come up thick and fast. But this provides a golden opportunity not only to strengthen the Party further in the capital but to lay the groundwork for the 2014 city-wide borough elections and the Euro-elections, which will almost certainly fall on the same day. That coincidence poses several new challenges not least how to integrate a local campaign in which ruthless targeting is going to be essential with a London-wide European campaign when the Liberal Democrats are likely to be the only party putting out an essentially positive message on Europe – and rightly so. At least the eight London Euro-candidates – who have been in place since 1 December – are already part of the integrated team. Those of us who have not gone abroad for New Year will be joining the first regional action day of the year this Saturday in North Kingston (Richmond Park).
Jonathan Fryer is the immediate past Chair of London Liberal Democrats and is Number 2 on the London Euro-list.
N.B. This post first appeared as an oped on LibDemVoice: http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-changing-gear-in-london-32463.html#utm_source=tweet&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=twitter
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Brixton, Caroline Pidgeon, Cleggmania, London Liberal Democrats, Mike Tuffrey, Richmond Park, Stephen Knight | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 29th July, 2011
When Vince Cable launched his plan for a ‘mansion tax’ on homes worth more than £1 million, there were howls of dismay from LibDem activists in places such as Richmond Park and Kensington & Chelsea, where even quite modest dwellings are now worth well in excess of a million, thanks to London’s absurdly over-priced property market. There was then talk of a £2 million threshold instead, but the scheme was still unpopular and some Liberal Democrat party members actually resigned in protest. However, the LibDem Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes, last night unveiled at a Lewisham LibDems supper an intriguing variation which has gone to his colleagues in government for consideration: a Mansion Tax for non-doms, inlcuding oligarchs from the former Soviet Union — billionaires whose hunger for prime London property has been a major factor in house price escalation. Boris Johnson, London’s Tory Mayor, will doubtless scoff at the proposal, saying it will drive the super-rich foreigners away. But for the super-rich the ‘pain’ will be minimal, whereas the government’s coffers will get a useful boost and UK residents who happen to live in what is now a very expensive part of town will not be ‘fined’ for doing so.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Boris Johnson, former Soviet Union, Kensington & Chelsea, Lewisham Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrats, oligarchs, Richmond Park, Simon Hughes, Vince Cable | 1 Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 21st February, 2010
Every political party has its Golden Oldies, vintage stalwarts who have not only put in many years of service to the party but continue to soldier on. But few such have as long a record and as much energy left as Stan Hardy from Dulwich, whose 90th birthday was celebrated at a joyfully noisy gathering taking up the whole second floor of Kettner’s Restaurant in Soho last night. Speeches of tribute came from Susan Kramer, MP or Richmond Park (and candidate in Dulwich and West Norwood in 1997) and Simon Hughes, MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey, as well as a response from the birthday boy hinself. Over the years of Stan’s involvement, Southwark borough has shifted from being something of a desert for Liberal Democrats (and predecessor parties) to having one LibDem MP with a majority of nearly 5,500, and second places in Dulwich and West Norwood (achieved for the first time in 2005 by Jonathan Mitchell, who is currently PPC) and in Camberwell and Peckham (Richard Porter in 2005, but now having as its PPC a popular former Mayor of Southwark, the Sierra Leonean Columba Blango).
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Camberwell and Peckham, Dulwich and West Norwood, Jonathan Mitchell, Kettner's, Liberal Democrats, North Southwark and Bermondsey, Richard Porter, Richmond Park, Sierra Leone, Simon Hughes, Stan Hardy, Susan Kramer | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 13th March, 2009
Richmond Park constituency has one of the most highly educated electorates in England, as well as an unusually strong concentration of media types. But even so, the local Liberal Democrats did well to assemble a Question Time panel at St Luke’s in Kew this evening that included Lord (Richard) Harries, former Bishop of Oxford (who by coincidence had done Thought for the Day on Radio 4 this morning), my old BBC World Service colleague Jackie Ashley (who now has a regular column in the Guardian), and Richmond Park MP Susan Kramer (who had been on the real, televised Question Time only last night). I made up the quartet of panelists. Just as on the TV programme, the questions were topical: would we have sacked Sharon Shoesmith, the Haringey Social Services Director; have recent killings in Northern Ireland shattered the peace accord there; can we do anything about Israel/Palestine… and so on? Though neither Lord Harries nor Jackie Ashley is a Liberal Democrat, it was interesting to see what a degree of consensus there was along ‘liberal’ lines. We were hardly a group of Sun or Daily Mail readers, of course. When one questioner cheekily asked whether we thought that Vince Cable was a genius, Jackie replied deftly, ‘No, he’s a saint!’, at which the Lord Bishop commented that by Catholic rules, at least, someone had to have performed two attested miracles before being granted sainthood, adding that the Liberal Democrats’ winning the general election would probably count as one.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Jackie Ashley, Kew, Question Time, Richard Harries, Richmond Park, Sharon Shoesmith, Susan Kramer, Vince Cable | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 8th January, 2009
Nick Clegg, Susan Kramer (MP for Richmond Park) and the environmental campaigner Tony Juniper attracted a full house at the Duke Street Baptist Church in Richmond (Surrey) this evening, for a Question Time on the economy and the environment, chaired with characteristic panache by ‘University Challenge’s’ Bamber Gascoigne. This was a variation on the town hall meetings that Nick has been doing up and down the country, reaching out to many thousands of electors. Richmond being Richmond, it was all very well behaved (apart from the slight irritation of the three young women helpers of Richmond Conservative candidate Zak Goldsmith sitting immediately behind me, who chattered throughout the whole event).
Opp0sition to the third runway at Heathrow (in which Susan Kramer has been hyper-active) not surprisjngly surfaced as an issue almost immediately, but soon the evening settled down to a serious discussion of how we can marry economic and social justice with environmental responsibility at this time of financial retrenchment. Tony Juniper was particularly eloquent in expressing how proper environmental management (including house insulation) and changing one’s lifestyle can actually improve one’s quality of life, even when economic conditions are tight. Nick rightly endorsed Tony’s comment that we need to show China and India how to develop more environmentally by example, rather than by finger-pointing.
One questioner asked why the three main political parties don’t work together on vital issues such as climate change, to which Nick responded that the LibDems had in fact encouraged this as a strategy, but it failed. The only agreements possible were on the lowest common denominator, whereas the LibDems, as the most environmentally-friendly of the mainstream parties, wish to set higher standards. Altogether, the evening was a worthwhile exercise, which may well be repeated elsewhere in Britain, not necessarily with the same subjects (though they are two of the core themes of the forthcoming European election campaign).
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Bamber Gascoigne, China, Duke Street Baptist Church, environment, Heathrow third runway, India, Nick Clegg, Richmond, Richmond Park, Susan Kramer, Tony Juniper, University Challenge, Zak Goldsmith | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 16th October, 2008
There is no greater sacrifice that a politician can make than to speak at a lunch, yet not have time to eat even a mouthful herself. OK, I exaggerate. But that is exactly what Susan Kramer, LibDem MP for Richmond Park, had to do today when she came to talk to the Kettner Lunch at the National Liberal Club. The Chairman, Peter Whyte, had told her that she could talk about anything she liked, so given her background and current events, she homed in on the financial situation. Although her neighbouring MP (for Twickenham), Vince Cable, tends to get all the limelight on such matters (and has been performing brilliantly in it), Susan was herself a banker before she went into politics. As she joked at lunch, she had never thought politics would prove to be the more secure profession!
Of course, her parliamentary seat is not that secure, as it is high on the list of Tory targets and the Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, and his backers have been pouring tens of thousands of pounds into the constituency in order to try to unseat Susan at the next general election. That would be a great shame, to put it mildly, as she works phenomenally hard. The reason she had to leave the NLC without even a taste of the food this lunchtime was because she had to go to Ham in her constituency to open a children’s centre.
Moreover, she demonstrated a far greater understanding of the current economic situation than the Tories’ putative Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, who looks more than ever like a frightened rabbit, with not the foggiest clue about what is going on. I almost feel sorry for him. But I am angry at David Cameron for showing such contempt for the British electorate that he should hand the most significant political portfolio to a young chum who is probably charming but unqualified.
Susan highlighted a number of vital issues as well as giving her own, experienced take on things. She echoed Vince Cable’s remarks (which I reported on recently) that the Bank of England needs to revise its inflation target. Interestingly, she called for a sharp decrease in interest rates, as she said what happened in Japan in the 1990s showed that a series of gradual cuts do not do the trick. She also chimed in with what Chris Huhne has been saying with regard to the cash-rich energy companies, namely that the sector should be shifting its focus towards being paid to save energy rather than being paid to sell energy. On this, as on many other points, the LibDems are ahead on the green agenda — and no amount or huffing and puffing by Zack Goldsmith will persuade me otherwise.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Bank of England, Chris Huhne, David Cameron, George Osborne, Kettner Lunch, National Liberal Club, Peter Whyte, Richmond Park, Susan Kramer, Twickenham, Vince Cable, Zac Goldsmith | 1 Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 22nd August, 2008
Yesterday I attended the AGM of the Kettner Lunch (of which I am a Vice-Chairman), at the National Liberal Club on the Embankment. This venerable lunchtime institution, as its name suggests, used to meet at Kettner’s Restaurant in Soho — which had been the scene of many of Oscar Wilde’s intimate suppers with his dangerous ‘panthers’, but was relaunched in the late 20th century by the Pizza Express and Peterborough magnate Peter Boizot (a generous donor to the Liberal Party and its successor). The luncheon club (what a deliciously outmoded yet splendidly ongoing concept) transferred to the NLC after another Peter, Peter Whyte took over — and it has flourished ever since. Even in 2008, there are not only ‘ladies who lunch’ but gentlemen too. Lord (Alan) Watson of Richmond has agreed to be its new President.
I think a major reason for the ongoing success of the group has been Peter Whyte’s decision to move outside the box of Liberal Democrat speakers to include a wide range of prominent people in public life and service. This has provided eclectic entertainment and indeed instruction — which is why it will be entirely appropriate if the Kettner’s Lunch now transmogirifies itself into a charitable enterpise, as is intended. Events to look forward to in the autumn include talks by Susan Kramer, LibDem MP for Richmond Park, and General Nick Parker.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: General Nick Parker, Kettner's, Lord Watson of Richmond, National Liberal Club, NLC, Peter Boizot, Peter Whyte, Richmond, Richmond Park, Susan Kramer, The Kettner Lunch | Leave a Comment »